The Soul of Poland : Cracow’s Historic Centre

From the 11th Century, the historic city of Cracow was the capital of Poland for nearly 600 years. Poland has been frequently invaded by neighbouring countries in the past; however, this city has miraculously remained unscathed. The central square covers an area of about 4 hectares and is one of the largest squares in Europe. Towering St. Marys church stands in the square. The trumpet call from the top of the tower is a reminder of a tragic event. In 1241 the trumpet called the same way to inform that the enemy was advancing. It was the Tartar-Mongolians, the most feared army invading Europe at that time. The sound of the trumpet suddenly stopped when an arrow from an enemy archer struck the throat of the guard. To remember the tragedy of this invasion, the trumpet is still played and stopped at the same point to this day. Later the Tartars were driven out of the country and Cracow was rebuilt.

The city thrived from trading in textiles and the Kingdom of Poland saw its apogee in the 16th century. Coronation ceremonies for successive 41 kings were held in this Wawel castle. Successive kings competed against their predecessors to create the best chapel extensions. As a result, the chapel is decorated in different architectural styles like Gothic and Renaissance.

This is the audience chamber where the Kings throne is situated. The faces of a countless number of people are carved into the ceiling of this room. I wonder if it was made to intimidate those people who wished to receive an audience? However, the prosperity of the kingdom did not last very long. The kingdom was politically controlled by foreign powers on three occasions during the 18th and 19th Centuries.

In 1939 the Second World War broke out and Cracow was seized by Nazi-German troops. The entire nation was destroyed by the bombings, but Cracow remained untouched. The Allies made the decision not to bomb the city because of its historical buildings.

The Lajkonik festival is held annually in June. In 1287 the Tartars attacked the city again but the people fiercely resisted and forced the enemy to retreat. The people of Cracow celebrated this victory by marching through the town with the clothes they took from the Tartar soldiers. That is said to be the origin of this annual parade. The old capital of Cracow has been invaded several times but still retains its medieval features. Cracow is indeed the heart and soul of the Polish people.

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